Written by Chriss W. Street
Away from the cameras and the media scrum, the first political casualty of the President’s disastrous launch of Obamacare is a bipartisan Congressional revolt against crony capitalists’ effort to pass the clandestine Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty. In an open letter following his Obamacare apology, 151 progressive Democrat members of the House of Representatives joined the 23 conservative Republican members in sending a letter urging the President to abandon asking for “fast-track authority” for approval of any new free trade agreement. Initially hailed as a free-market weapon to speed defeat of communism, fast-track has been corrupted by multi-national corporate interests into a tool to undermine American sovereignty and out-source jobs.
For 200 years, Congress wrote laws to oversee trade under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Congress created fast-track authority through the Trade Act of 1974 to give the President of the United States the ability to negotiate without filibusters or amendments a “substantial reduction of tariffs and other trade barriers and the elimination of preferences, on a reciprocal and mutually advantageous basis” as a free market weapon against communist expansion around the world. Originally scheduled to expire in 1980, it was extended several times until the end of the Cold War that was marked by opening of trade with China, passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the 1995 formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Despite strong opposition from House Republicans, Presidential candidate George W. Bush made passage of fast-track part of his campaign platform in 2000. At 3:30 a.m. on July 27, 2002, bipartisan House members passed by just 3 votes the contentious Trade Act of 2002 that extended fast-track authority to 2007. Four days later, the bill passed the Senate by just one vote more than the 2/3 majority required to ratify treaties.
Following fast-track’s expiration, Congress ratified three separate trade agreements with Panama, Colombia and South Korea. But in 2010, the White House began secretly negotiating the expansive Trans-Pacific Partnership between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States. The TPP final round of negotiations was held in Brunei last August, and there have been informal meetings to finalize sections of the agreement. But unlike past trade agreements, the text of the TPP is classified and members of Congress have only restricted access to it. If they do read the TPP draft text, they are not allowed to copy it or discuss any specifics of it. However, 600 large transnational corporations are on the advisory panel and have real-time direct access to the draft text revisions.
The Administration claims the treaty will allow Pacific Rim nations to not only trade goods with near-zero tariffs, but also reduce non-tariff trade barriers against the “free movement” of intangible services, investments, public projects and intellectual property. But my sources warn that only 5 of the 29 chapters contain provisions that are directly related to trade. My concern is that the “free movement” language in the treaty is code words for a back-door corporate power grab to swap out-sourcing of American service jobs in exchange for international enforcement of a radical expansion of intellectual property rights for the pharmaceutical, media and tech industries. Multi-national crony capitalists know that if they clandestinely implant self-serving language into TPP,
American federal, state and local law must be “harmonized” to conform to the treaty. WikiLeaks confirmed those suspicions by publishing a 95-page, 30,000-word partial draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership chapter on Intellectual Property Rights. The language “lays out provisions for instituting a far-reaching, transnational legal and enforcement regime, modifying or replacing existing laws in TPP member states.” Most troubling is the blatant effort to grant “policing” powers and “supranational litigation tribunals” that trump existing American laws regarding “individual rights, civil liberties, publishers, internet service providers and internet privacy.” According to WikiLeaks, “If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its cross-hairs.”
The TPP provisions would not only extend international copyright “protections” far beyond the current standard of the author’s “life plus 50 years”; the treaty undermines the “formalities” of registering copyrights by granting “unpublished works” protections of up to 120 years and uses a “3-step test” for enforcement that favors powerful transnational corporate interests over American small business and local inventors.
When the WTO was passed under fast-track, Congress was only allowed 90 days to review the bill’s 60 separate sections and tens of thousands of pages, before making an up or down vote after only 20 hours of debate and no right to introduce amendments. Despite being at least as complex as Obamacare, few members of Congress read the treaty or had the expertise to understand the breadth of its true intentions. One of the WTO “requirements” was that the Glass-Steagall legislation that separated banks and investment brokers since the Great Depression had to be repealed. I believe that the rise of derivatives and the 2008 financial crash were the inevitable blowback from WTO.
Despite the conceptual benefits of “free trade”, the WTO, NAFTA and other fast-track” treaties over the last two decades caused a net loss of 6 million American manufacturing jobs and the U.S. trade deficit to increase by 440% with the countries involved. Multinational corporations are aggressively lobbying Congress to pass the global climate change treaty; because their factories in China are competitively exempted from its brutal costs as “under-developed” economies. How can American small businesses and workers, burdened by brutal regulations, compete under TPP with huge transnational corporations paying their workers in Malaysia, where the minimum wage is $1.24; in Peru, where it is $1.37; or in Vietnam, where it is 30 cents?
Crony capital lobbyists must be in cardiac arrest over how quickly their schemes to use fast-track authority to stealthily pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership evaporated as the first political casualty from the Obamacare scandal. The main-stream-media is always complaining Congress is unwilling to work together to solve the nation’s challenges. They never expected that a bipartisan coalition of hard-left progressive Democrats and hard-right conservative Republicans would unite to take on the most powerful moneyed interests in Washington DC in defense of American sovereignty and good paying jobs.